Why the change in view of God after the 3rd century?

Discussion in 'Christian History' started by younglite, Apr 2, 2016.

  1. younglite

    younglite Member

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    There was certainly a different view of God prior to the 4th century. From the NT disciples up until just beyond the Nicean Creed, we see a belief of God that includes subordinationism. Basically the earliest writers of Christianity taught in the Father as "True God," while the Son and Spirit were also God since they derived their substance from Him. Though not equal as "True God," they are the only two who are equal in substance, thus they can rightfully be called "God." This is not some rogue writer whom the respected writers refuted. If that were the case, we could ignore him. But literally all of the writers (Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Origen, Tertullian, and more) wrote about God in this way. Most of the men writing this teaching were made saints later by the church.

    It's interesting that modern theology textbooks acknowledge that earlier "True God" Trinity orthodoxy is ignored in favor of the later "All are equal" Trinity orthodoxy...

    Oxford Dictionary: Teaching about the Godhead which regards either the Son as subordinate to the Father or the Holy Ghost as subordinate to both. It is a characteristic tendency in much of Christian teaching of the first three centuries...” (The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2nd ed., p. 1319)

    The Westminster Handbook to Patristic Theology: SUBORDINATIONISM. The term is a common retrospective concept used to denote theologians of the early church who affirmed the divinity of the Son or Spirit of God, but conceived it somehow as a lesser form of divinity than that of the Father. It is a modern concept that is so vague that is that it [modern theology] does not illuminate much of the theology of the pre-Nicene teachers, where a subordinationist presupposition was widely and unreflectively shared. (p. 321)

    The New Catholic Encyclopedia has the following to say on the origins of the concept of Trinity: "The formulation 'One God in 3 Persons' was not solidly established, certainly not fully fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century. But it is precisely this formulation that has first claim to the title 'the Trinitarian dogma'. Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective." (1967 edition, volume 14, p. 299)

    "With the exception of Athanasius, virtually every theologian, East and West, accepted some form of subordinationism at least up to the year 355; subordinationism might indeed, until the denouement of the controversy, have been described as accepted orthodoxy." (R.P.C. Hanson 1988. The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318-381, p.xix.)

    The quote above is mistaken in regards to Athanasius, but the point is still made. There was a clearly different Trinity theology for the first three centuries of Christianity. Yet it is virtually ignored today.

    This is different from Arianism, as Arius believed the Son was created out of nothing. The earliest Trinitarians believed that the Son and Spirit were both eternal and yet had a beginning when they were brought forth from the literal substance of God. How is it that such a pervasive teaching was all but abandoned after 300 years?
     
  2. for_his_glory

    for_his_glory Member

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    God and His word has never changed, but man sure does try to Change the word of God with their twisted doctrines

    Eph 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
    Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
    Heb 13:9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
     
  3. younglite

    younglite Member

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    I don't believe in creating doctrines out of an obscure passage. The whole of Scripture must be considered. So how would you explain these verses?

    John 3:33-35 and John 5:43-44: Jesus refers to the Father as the “only God.”

    John 17:3 – Only true God is Whom Jesus is talking to. (see also John 5:44)

    1 Thess 1:9-10 – True God and His Son (also see John 3:33, 5:44 and John 17:3)

    1 John 5:20 – God is the true God, depicted in the Son – very clear Who is truly God and Who is Son

    I Tim 1:17 - invisible God (see Col 3:15) is the only God

    Jude 25 – The Father being praised through Christ is the only God.

    1 Corinthians 8:4-6, Eph4:6, Gal 3:20, 1 Tim 2:5, 1 John 5:20 – One God, the Father

    Col 1:15, 3:10 – Jesus is the image of God (see 2 Cor 4:4, Col 1:15, 1 John 5:20)

    Rev 3:14 – Jesus is the beginning of creation

    For the first several centuries, the New Testament writers and early writers declared the unveiling of the Son from His Father, the one true God. They also declared that the Son was God, too, for what is begotten of God, is God. But in later centuries, there was a overreaction to heresy, so the Son began to be elevated to be co-equal with God, the Father.

    I am curious as to why we haven't gone back to the teachings before this overreaction? Why are Christians, theologians, professors, etc. afraid to just let Scripture and the early writings speak for themselves? Is it because there is something that doesn't feel right about making Jesus "less?"

    You don't get much closer to the original source than the disciples of the apostles. These writings have been copied in Latin, Syriac, Greek and other languages. They clearly distinguish themselves in their writings from the heretical arguments of the gnostics, and many are referenced/endorsed by the later church fathers. They are reliable and should be considered heavily when determining what the writers of the NT were trying to say.

    What did the immediate disciples of the apostles believe?

    Clement of Rome (disciple of Paul and Peter, died in 99AD). Origen says he is the Clement of Phil 4:3 [Commentary, John 1:29]. His writing is the earliest outside of the NT writings (80-140 AD). Note that he prays to God the Father directly, through the Son. He tells God that He is God alone and is the Highest, and does His work through his Son, Jesus Christ.

    1Clem 59:3
    [Grant unto us, Lord,] that we may set our hope on Thy Name which is the primal source of all creation, and open the eyes of our hearts, that we may know Thee, who alone abidest Highest in the lofty... and hast chosen out from all men those that love Thee through Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son...

    verse 4 (next verse)
    Let all the Gentiles know that Thou art the God alone, and Jesus Christ is Thy Son...


    Ignatius (disciple of Peter and John, died 108 AD)

    I long after the Lord, the Son of the true God and Father, even Jesus Christ.
    (Ignatius to the Romans, chapter VI)

    But our Physician is the only true God, the unbegotten and unapproachable, the Lord of all, the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son.
    (Ignatius to the Ephesians, chapter VII)

    He made known the one and only true God, His Father, and underwent the passion, and endured the cross at the hands of the Christ-killing Jews, under Pontius Pilate the governor and Herod the king. He also died, and rose again, and ascended into the heavens...
    (Ignatius to the Romans, chapter VI)

    Polycarp (disciple of John, died 155 AD)
    Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High Priest (I Tim 2:5 makes a similar statement) himself, the Son of God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth...
    (Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians, 12:2)

    Before we even get out of the gate to later disciples, the direct disciples of the Apostles teach that the Father is true God. They also state that Jesus is God, too, but only the Father is true God and/or Most High God. This theme is carried on in the writings for the next few hundred years right up to the formation of the Nicean Creed. If you truly consider their teachings, then it helps when you are reading Scripture...

    Of course, this goes against what we are taught about the Trinity today, so we outright disregard the evidence of their writings. Sad. We should believe what we read, not read what we believe.
     
  4. for_his_glory

    for_his_glory Member

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    I guess by your reply you did not see me agreeing with your OP. The scriptures I posted were to show how God has never changed nor His word, but that others do try to twist it and teach a false doctrine.
     
  5. Malachi

    Malachi Member

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    Right. That is precisely why we should first and foremost read the Scriptures, and only then see what men have written. The Greek Word *theos" is translated as *God* consistently in Scripture. And this Word is applied to Christ several times, to indicate that with the Father He too is God (John 1:1; 1 Tim 3:16; Heb 1:7,8).
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [Theos].
    And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God [Theos] was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
    But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God [Theos], is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God [Theos], even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

    The same principle can be applied to the Holy Spirit in Scripture. He is God, who can be blasphemed, and to blaspheme the Holy Spirit is the unpardonable sin.
     
  6. younglite

    younglite Member

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    Sorry. I missed that. I did assume you were telling me I was twisting doctrine. Thanks for the clarification.
     
  7. younglite

    younglite Member

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    No argument there. I am definitely a Trinitarian, but I also believe the Trinity as understood by the earliest interpretations of Scripture, in which the Father was "True God" or "Most High God," while His Son and Spirit were God because they were brought forth from the Father. They are God by being from his substance.
     
  8. for_his_glory

    for_his_glory Member

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    all three speak that of the same as it's all Gods spoken word as when Jesus spoke and when the Holy Spirit speaks for nothing is spoken unless God spoke it first.
     
  9. Radagast

    Radagast Member

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    No, there wasn't. The Council of Nicaea simply normalised what virtually all Christians had always believed. The writers you quote did not teach what you say they taught -- Tertullian, in fact, was the person who gave us the word "Trinity."
     
  10. younglite

    younglite Member

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    Actually, it was Theophilus who first gave us the term Trinity, and Tertullian used it later.

    Speaking of Tertullian, please explain what he means by these quotes...

    "Because God is in like manner a Father, and He is also a Judge; but He has not always been Father and Judge, merely on the ground of His having always been God. For He could not have been the Father previous to the Son, nor a Judge previous to sin.'
    (Tertullian, Part Second, Section 3, Against Hermogenes, Chapter 3)

    "...so that if the Father and the Son, are alike to be invoked, I shall call the Father "God," and invoke Jesus Christ as "Lord." But when Christ alone (is mentioned), I shall be able to call Him "God"
    (Against Praxeas, Chapter 13)

    "For the Father is the entire substance, but the Son is a derivation and portion of the whole, as He Himself acknowledges: "My Father is greater than I."
    (Tertullian, Part Second, Section 7, Against Praxeas, Chapter 9)

    Quotes help, but it is better if you read the entire context of what was being said. The best overall text that explains God alone before begetting the Son, and the Word within God prior is chapter 3-5 of “Against Praxeas,” and chapter 7 speaks to the womb of the Father's heart and uses the word “bosom” four times to relate to where the Son came from), also see chaps 18 & 19 of “Against Homegenes.”

    This is unlike any teaching I have ever heard today, so read over his writings above, and then tell me how it is the same as later teaching. By the way, I agree the Nicean Creed normalized it all, because it also says there is One God, the Father. It was later that the "All are equal" teaching came to be.

    Peace.
     
  11. Radagast

    Radagast Member

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    Theophilus of Antioch of course discussed the concept, but he was Greek, wasn't he? "Trinitas" is a Latin word.

    Because to say "Father" is to imply that there is also a Son.

    In that same book, Tertullian goes on to say "The Son is the Word, and 'the Word is God' (John 1:1), and 'I and my Father are one' (John 10:30)."

    Indeed.

    You seem to be misreading him. Those sections are actually a statement of Trinity doctrine.

    In section 5, Tertullian does indeed say "before all things God was alone," but he almost immediately follows with "Yet even not then was He alone," pointing out that the Word (Logos = the Son) was also there.

    Which modern theologians have you been reading on the Trinity?
     
  12. Malachi

    Malachi Member

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    Rather than speaking of the Father as "true God" (which makes the Son and the Spirit less than "true God", we simply need to remember that there is a hierarchy within the Godhead, with the Father as the Head of the Son (1 Cor 11:3), and the Holy Spirit revealing Christ and God's truth (John 16:13).
     

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